Endorsements Might Sway Swing Votes

Over the last couple of weeks newspaper endorsements have been pouring in.  As of yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama has a significant lead with 124 daily newspaper endorsements to Sen. John McCain’s 46, according to Editor & Publisher, a journal that covers the newspaper industry.


What is even more interesting is that 27 papers have switched their position from Republican to Democrat since 2004 when they endorsed President George W. Bush over Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Only four papers that endorsed Kerry in 2004 have changed lanes and chose to endorse McCain instead.


Although individual endorsements and newspaper endorsements are a different species, all endorsements are purposed to compel voters to vote for whom they prescribe. After former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell threw his support behind Obama last Sunday,   Gallup conducted a poll to see if his endorsement made a difference in swaying votes to Obama. While 80% of registered voters are aware of former Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama for president, only 12% say the endorsement makes them more likely to vote for Obama, while 4% say it makes them less likely to vote for the Democratic nominee.


Gallup spokesperson Eric Nielsen says that anecdotally, endorsements, newspaper or otherwise, really don’t swing large blocks of voters. But it isn’t the large blocks that matter, he says. “In situations where the numbers are very tight endorsements may make a difference because they don’t make large swings in voters, they make small swings.”


For example, the 12% that say Powell’s endorsement makes them more likely to vote for Obama doesn’t seem like much, but in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Minnesota and Colorado where the election is a toss up it can mean the difference between a red or blue state. So also, could the 4% that are now less likely to vote for Obama because of Powell’s endorsement.


Newspapers are also more tailored to cities and communities and their endorsements could serve to highlight positives or negatives about a candidate that are directly relevant to the specific issues that affect their communities.


The Middletown Journal in Butler County, Ohio, noted that under Bush Butler County hasn’t fared well and that McCain’s record of supporting the Bush administration’s policies led them to endorse Obama.


McCain has said that Obama is not experienced enough to lead the country. The Boston Herald echoed this position in its endorsement of McCain. The paper reminded its readers that McCain reacted immediately to the aggression of Russia on Georgia, but Obama took three days to respond. “There is no room for a naif in the Oval Office,” they wrote.


On the other side, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin has been the target of scrutiny that caused many newspapers (and Powell) to plant their feet squarely in Obama’s court.


Florida’s Daytona News Journal said Palin “wouldn’t know pre-emption doctrine if it were carved on a moose

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